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Omaha Magazine

Designing for People and Nature: Heartwood Preserve Brings New Look to Classic Location

May 26, 2020 08:56AM ● By Kara Schweiss

One of the largest urban developments in the country is now underway right here in Omaha—and “it will be a magnificent development when it is all done,” said Jeff Silver, executive vice president and general counsel for Applied Underwriters, the company that is driving the project. 

Heartwood Preserve will encompass 500 acres on former Boys Town land and farmland southwest of 144th and Dodge streets. Occupancy is still largely in the discussion and negotiation stage, but the development is expected to include 500,000 square feet of retail space for diverse businesses from boutiques to national chains; several dining choices; 1.65 million square feet of Class A single-tenant and multi-tenant office space for lease or on a build-to-suit basis; a mix of multi-family and single-family residences from apartments and cottages to large-lot estate homes; a 300-room hotel; and a senior living facility. 

The grounds will boast more than 10,000 trees and 80 acres of parks and open space, and offer eight miles of paths and trails for the community to enjoy. Attractions will include an amphitheater, an ice rink, and Heartwood Park, “the jewel of Heartwood Preserve” and a gathering place for events and outdoor activities. Each neighborhood will have footpaths that lead to Heartwood Park, and tenants are planning for access to outdoor areas as well. 

Noddle Companies is the lead developer for the project, and the consulting team includes HDR, Urban Design Associates, HR&A Advisors, and Lamp Rynearson & Associates. CBRE has been brought on as the brokerage firm, and Berkeley, California-based landscape architect David Meyer is another key partner. 

Everything has been carefully thought out in terms of how people experience Heartwood, including how they interact with the landscape and the social infrastructure within the development, said Bart Emanuel, Applied Underwriters’ national director of development and construction. He added that the Heartwood development will be a walkable community, with a large percentage of land intentionally dedicated to green spaces and recreational areas. 

Applied Underwriters’ official dedication of Heartwood Preserve took place last September. In January, luxury auto dealer ONYX Automotive at 148th and Davenport streets became the first business to launch operations. Now that spring has arrived, passersby have seen a lot of activity in the area including the installation of traffic lights and street lights.  

“It’s going to be a busy year,” Emanuel said. “There’s a lot of steel going up right now.” 

Some of that steel is the framework for Applied Underwriters’ new headquarters building on its upcoming 55-acre campus, the development’s business anchor and the impetus for the entire project.  

“Where we are located now (in the Old Mill area), we have three separate buildings,” Silver said. “We are growing, so we have been looking for a long time for a space to build.”

The global risk services firm needed a significant piece of land and considered several parcels in different parts of the city before the Boys Town land became available. Its location, with rare undeveloped space in the midst of existing infrastructure, proved to be ideal. 

“144th and Dodge is really close to being the center of Omaha anymore,” Emanuel said. 

“It was the right time for us to make the decision to move, and when we decided to move, not only were we going to develop it for us, we thought it was an excellent opportunity to develop this wonderful piece of property for all of Omaha,” Silver added. “This is not just for Applied Underwriters and its employees, it’s also for the city itself…this development is going to be so unique.”

The design and development team included employee input in the plan for the 250,000 square feet of office space that will comprise the Applied Underwriters campus, expected to be move-in ready in early 2022, Silver said. Efficiencies include a solar energy system and underground parking garage. The interior design fosters collaboration and interaction, and employees will enjoy beautiful views and have access to outdoor spaces. “It is going to be so attractive and easy for our employees to work in,” Silver said. “It creates an incredible environment for all…there are so many amenities that are going to make employees happy.” 

The company expects the Heartwood Preserve projects to create hundreds of new jobs in construction and landscaping and thousands of new jobs in the facilities that will be housed in the development. Valmont Industries and Carson Group are constructing headquarters facilities and Avamere, which is creating the Ovation retirement community, are also among the companies who’ve already started building. 

Neighbors like St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, which is acquiring 15 acres of the farmland for expansion, and Millard North High School, which is receiving donated land for access improvements, are benefiting from the project. Other neighbors and the community at large have been supportive and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, Emanuel said.

“The mayor and planning department have been extraordinarily helpful,” Emanuel said. “They have absolutely been a partner in the whole project from day one.” 

For more information, visit the Heartwood Preserve website at HeartwoodOmaha.com.

This article was printed in the June 2020 issue of B2B Magazine.